GREENFIELD — Speculation that former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh will make another run for Senate in Indiana has local Democrats feeling hopeful.
On Monday, former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, who had filed to run as the Democratic candidate for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat against Republican Todd Young, dropped his bid for the seat.
Republican Sen. Dan Coats is retiring from the office, and Hill and Young won May’s primary for their party’s nominations. But on Monday, Hill filed papers to withdraw his name from the Nov. 8 election.
Though the Indiana Democratic Party state committee will formally pick Hill’s replacement, party officials say Bayh is the anticipated choice.
Bayh retired from the Senate in 2010 following two terms after previously serving as governor and secretary of state.
Hill said he’s dropping out because he doesn’t want to stand in the way of his party winning the open seat. With a strong candidate who has both a recognizable name and strong financial support, Democrats have a real chance at winning, he said.
“I have never run away from tough decisions or tough fights. But I am a pragmatic person who will always put my country and my state first,” Hill wrote in a statement. “… The stakes are far too high in this election not to put my country above my own political ambitions.”
In a news statement, Bayh said he spoke with Hill, but he didn’t confirm whether he’ll join the race.
But the speculation is enough to get local Democrats talking, said party chair Randy Johnson.
“I’m very much encouraged about this development,” Johnson said. “He’s a great candidate for the Democratic Party.”
And he expects Bayh’s name on the Democratic ticket could be beneficial in helping local Democrats get elected.
“People are going to be thrilled about this,” Johnson said. “This is the type of candidate Hoosiers like.”
Hill was unopposed in May’s primary for the Democratic nomination, but he struggled to raise campaign contributions. He wasn’t considered a strong candidate to take on Young, whose campaign announced Monday he had about $1.2 million in the bank on June 30, according to the The Associated Press.
If Bayh becomes his party’s nominee, he’ll have a strong fundraising lead. The latest federal reports show that Bayh had nearly $9.3 million in his campaign account at the end of March. Since retiring, he’s held onto most of his campaign money.
John Zody, chair of the state’s Democratic Party, said he’s starting the process to fill the vacancy, according to a news release. The party has 30 days to select a new candidate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.